Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As She Said...

A few months ago I discovered a sewer/sewist through the A Dress A Day site. After going over to her own blog, Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, it seemed she (aka Gretchen) had found a vintage sewing book that I hadn't discovered yet, Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing from 1952. It was a companion piece to 14 pattern designs that Vogue Patterns released in the early 1950s. At some point she decided to attempt each and every project set out in the book. And I (along with many others) have become hooked to her almost-daily posts on vintage fashion and her projects. In fact, she has been responsible for getting me interested in my own projects again. So thank you G!

I hope you enjoy my little interview with her. If you want more, you can check her own back story post here, her progress up-to-date post here, and all fourteen projects that she will be completing here.

When did you start sewing and what was your very first project? Do you still have it? ; )

Well, I remember learning the basics from my mom at a fairly young age. I still hear her voice in my head sometimes, telling me which way to turn the flywheel and things like that. She ended up signing me up for a children's sewing class; I think I must have been around 10 at the time. We made the most god-awful elastic waist pants with matching vests. I remember that mine was in a blue stripe seersucker. I'm positive I didn't save that atrocity. I don't think I ever even wore it! My favorite thing about the class was having a little pink wicker sewing basket that I would carry back and forth.

How would you consider your sewing proficiency level, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced?

I'm going to go with intermediate. I feel like I've had some sort of sewing knowledge all my life, but it wasn't until about a year and a half ago that I committed to learning fashion sewing. I took a few classes, and read through back issues of Threads that I bought on eBay--years and years worth. But really just practicing has made me a much better sewist--I find I improve with every project.
How much of your wardrobe (in percentages) do you think you have made?

Maybe around 40%. But that number is definitely growing! I don't enjoy shopping the way I used to. Well, unless it's fabric shopping!

How much more fashion sewing had you done before you started your blog?

I was pretty involved at BurdaStyle, where I'd won a dress design contest. (See my design here.) I was also a finalist in the SewStylish Spring fashion contest, a bit of a notorious one actually. I liked being creative in my sewing pursuits, and I still do, but I'd say I'm much more committed to learning the craft and taking direction from patterns now.
What was the reason you started this blog?

I think I needed a sense of direction, in sewing and in life. I'd been unemployed for about four months, and I had a lot of uncertainty about my future. I'm a children's book editor, and publishing is really unstable right now. While I was out of work, I had tons of time to sew, but my sewing was kind of purposeless. Also, (and I only mention this because it feels like an important part of the story), I'd just quit drinking for various reasons, and I found I had a lot of free time and energy to use. I wanted to use it in productive ways.

I'd bought my copy of Vogue's New Book For Better Sewing (VoNBBS) last year, and it had just been sitting around. One day, I was flipping through it and the idea struck me--how cool would it be to commit to making every project in the book? And to write about it? It suddenly energized me in a way I hadn't felt about anything in a long time. I guess it's kind of the sewing version of Julie & Julia.

About a month after I started the blog, I got a fabulous job offer. I'm back at work now, and more committed to the blog than ever. I think it gives me a focus inside and outside of work, and a certain kind of balance in my life.

Where did you find your copy of Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing and how much did you pay for it?

I found it on Alibris.com, for $10.25, which is a great price. You'll see some very expensive* copies of this book out there, but I don't think it's an exceptionally rare book. Mine has a large coffee ring stain on the front, which is probably why it was priced so low. I think the stain gives it character!

Do the book instructions mirror the instructions sheet in the pattern; or how exactly does the book complement those instructions? Do you feel the book was necessary for the success of the garments or could that have been achieved with the pattern instructions alone?

The book is much more detailed. The instructions that come with each pattern are actually very sparse, so I think unless you had someone to help you, the book would have been necessary for an absolute beginner.

Do you think that this book concept if done today to go along with the Big 4's seasonal offerings (AND if financially feasible) would be a good thing or not?

Well, I think we have so many more resources today as sewists. If we're having a problem, we can post on Pattern Review or BurdaStyle, and get help almost immediately. Plus, it seems that styles from the Big Four are much more fickle these days. It would be hard to come up with a collection of 14 garments that will stay in style--and in print--for long enough to make a book like VoNBBS feasible.

VoNBBS claims it will make you a better dressmaker. However, that leaves you without their instructional help on making trousers. Will you be looking for a later date Vogue book for that advice?

Who knows what I'll be interested in after this whole project, but I'm guessing not. I don't have a huge interest in sewing pants, though I do love a good pair of 40's style trousers, so maybe!

In VoNBBS, are you going to make the little girl's dress too?

Yep! If it's in the book, I'm making it. I would love to have a little girl someday, so it's kind of wishful thinking too.

Please tell me you are going to make that ball gown. I think we all need a ball gown, if only to give us a reason to find an opportunity to wear it or to give us an excuse, NOT to turn down an opportunity to wear one.

Ha! I'm definitely going to make it, but I've been toying with the possibility of shortening it to knee length so it's more of a party dress. I think I'll put a poll up on the blog to let my readers decide!
[Poll is here, 18 more days to vote]

What kind of sewing machine do you own? How long have you had it?

I have a Brother PC-420, which I bought about a year and a half ago. I like it a lot, though it probably wouldn't be the machine I'd choose today. My favorite feature on it is the automatic thread cutter!

If you bought another machine, what feature(s) would be most important when making that choice?

I'm actually in the process of buying a vintage machine. It's a 1952 Singer Featherweight, made the year that Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing was published. The more projects I make from the book, the more curious I am about what the actual 1952 sewing experience was like. Also, I like that the Featherweight is such a time-honored machine, and I know it will be a good investment. I found mine for a very good price on eBay.

What are the state of fabric stores in your neighborhood? How frequently do you find yourself buying fabric and notions online?

Well, I live a 20 minute subway ride from New York's garment district, so I'm lucky enough to have access to the best of the best. I do the majority of my shopping there, but I sometimes also order from Gorgeousfabrics.com, because I love the selection. I live in Queens, and there are a couple neighborhood fabric shops, but I don't like the selection at all--it's such a huge difference from the offerings in the garment district, despite the proximity. Lots of polyester, and I cannot stand polyester. One handy neighborhood shop is a sewing and vacuum repair that also sells notions, including zippers and Gutermann thread. It's nice to have that in walking distance.

Again, thanks for the inspiration, Gertie!

It's still available here for $75 and I just it on Amazon for $111! Please, no one buy these copies, those prices are ridiculous.


Nancy said...

What a great interview! Thanks for doing it, ladies. Great questions and great answers from some seasoned seamstresses. You're both people whose blogs I read because I'm still learning about fashion sewing...I'll soak up as much wisdom and insight as you want to share! Thanks again!

Caitlin said...

I love Gertie's blog, too! Thanks for doing such a neat interview with her.